Keene store owner's lottery winnings not what he thought [The Keene Sentinel, N.H. :: ]
(Keene Sentinel (NH) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) May 10--A Keene store owner who thought he was getting $30,000 for selling a winning lottery ticket in March has been told by N.H. Lottery Commission officials that he is entitled to only one-third of that amount.
And Brian Cagney, owner of Park Avenue Deli & Market in Keene along with his wife, Karen, isn't happy about it.
The store sold a winning $5 million ticket to John Walker of Keene in the March 21 Mega Millions drawing. It's the largest prize ever won in the N.H. Mega Millions game, which began in 2010.
Walker bought a $1 ticket and paid another dollar for what's called the Megaplier option. The ticket itself was worth $1 million, but the Megaplier option multiplied his winnings fivefold -- to $5 million. That's where Cagney lost out.
Lottery officials first informed Cagney and the public that he had won $30,000.
Maura McCann, product and marketing manager of the N.H. Lottery, told The Sentinel in March that Cagney would receive $30,000. That figure was also posted on the lottery's website for about a week.
According the lottery bylaws, store owners receive 1 percent of a jackpot prize, capped at $30,000.
Upon further review, commission officials say they discovered the lottery's bylaws showed Walker had actually won a second-tier prize, not a jackpot prize. All prizes enhanced by the Megaplier are considered second- or third-tier commissions for retailers.
Store-owner bonuses in the second tier are capped at $10,000, not $30,000, so Cagney wound up receiving 0.2 percent of Walker's winnings.
"I'm pretty upset about it," Cagney said. "I didn't expect this at all."
In an email to The Sentinel Thursday, McCann said Cagney was immediately informed by lottery officials that the original figure was inaccurate. "This office further apologized for the misinformation provided to him and he was provided with the correct amount per the New Hampshire Lottery Commission," McCann wrote.
Cagney says he first saw the $10,000 figure in a letter from the lottery dated March 25. He says he showed the letter to his lottery sales representative, Adam Hopkins, who assumed it must have been a typo.
After that, he made several calls to the lottery and eventually spoke to Deputy Director Lynda E. Plante.
"She was actually very nice about it," Cagney said. "She said they were reviewing the process, gathering information and there seemed to be a lot of confusion, and they would call back the next day."
Cagney says he mostly wanted to talk to lottery Executive Director Charles McIntyre, and that's where his frustration level kicked up. When he finally reached him by phone several days later, Cagney says he asked McIntyre for the lottery commission's most recent meeting minutes concerning retailer bonus commissions and incentives. That turned out to be June 2011.
After not hearing anything from the lottery for more than three weeks, Cagney received a letter and the meeting minutes from McIntyre dated April 29. McIntyre wrote that the press was to blame for the misunderstanding.
"I can only express my sincere apologies for the way in which the press erroneously reported that the store bonus was $30,000, and not the correct $10,000," McIntyre wrote to Cagney. "We value our retail partners and we have made significant efforts to increase their compensation over the past few years."
McIntyre also wrote that the lottery was holding on to Cagney's $10,000 bonus "as a practical matter," although he added that the lottery would tender it immediately if Cagney so requested.
The June 10, 2011, minutes show a couple provisions in the retail bonus commissions were briefly discussed and renewed by a unanimous vote. Regarding retailer bonuses in Mega Millions, the bylaws read: "1 percent of 2nd tier prize including Megaplier up to a maximum of $10,000." There is also a third tier of retailer commissions with a $500 cap.
Cagney, who has owned the Park Avenue Deli for 6 1/2 years, says he doesn't expect to receive anything more than the $10,000, but wants other store owners to know what he's been through. There are about 1,250 lottery retailers in the state, according to McCann.
Also, Cagney said he's had many requests from nonprofit organizations in the area asking for donations since his winnings went public, and he wants them to know he's not getting the $30,000. "We have to keep telling people that, and I feel bad about it," he said.
In winning the $5 million, Walker opted for the one-time payment option and took home $3,750,000 after federal taxes, according to the lottery.
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